Examination of bariatric surgery Facebook support groups: a content analysis

Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2017 Aug;13(8):1369-1375. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2017.04.025. Epub 2017 Apr 26.


Background: Support following bariatric surgery is vital to ensure long-term postoperative success. Many individuals undergoing bariatric surgery are turning to online modalities, especially the popular social media platform Facebook, to access support groups and pages. Despite evidence suggesting that the majority of patients considering bariatric surgery are utilizing online groups, little is known about the actual content of these groups.

Objectives: The purpose of the present study was to conduct a content analysis of bariatric surgery support groups and pages on Facebook.

Setting: Online via Facebook, independent academic medical center, United States.

Methods: Data from bariatric surgery-related Facebook support groups and pages were extracted over a 1-month period in 2016. Salient content themes (e.g., progress posts, depression content, eating behaviors) were coded reliably (all κ> .70).

Results: More than 6,800 posts and replies were coded. Results indicated that seeking recommendations (11%), providing information or recommendations (53%), commenting on changes since surgery (19%), and lending support to other members (32%) were the most common types of posts. Content surrounding anxiety, eating behaviors, depression, body image, weight bias, and alcohol was found less frequently.

Conclusions: Online bariatric surgery groups can be used to receive support, celebrate physical and emotional accomplishments, provide anecdotal accounts of the "bariatric lifestyle" for preoperative patients, and comment on challenges with mental health and experiences of weight bias. Providers should become acquainted with the content commonly found in online groups and exercise caution in recommending these platforms to information-seeking patients.

Keywords: Bariatric surgery; Content analysis; Media effects; Online social networking; Social media; Support groups.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Bariatric Surgery*
  • Body Image
  • Depression / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Obesity, Morbid / psychology
  • Obesity, Morbid / surgery*
  • Self-Help Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Support*